Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cooking on the Fly with Perpetual Stock

A very dear friend of mine recently introduced me to "perpetual broth (or stock or soup...)." I was intrigued by the idea, but wasn't sure if I would use enough broth to make it worthwhile. Turns out, it's a magnificent kitchen tool to have on hand. Yes, I said tool.
5. anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose (dictionary.com)
In the case of the modern housewife faced with the task and purpose to feed her family nourishing, minimally processed foods, perpetual broth is definitely one tool no cook should be without..


My first thought when my friend began to explain it to me was YOU PUT A CHICKEN CARCASS IN YOUR CROCK POT AND MAKE BROTH WITH IT FOREVER? Sort of.  Into your crock pot, you put bones of your choice, good, filtered water, vegetables (be careful what kind, some will cause the broth to be bitter and, well, yucky), maybe some seasonings, and turn the crock pot on low. After 24 hours, you can start using the broth for meals or whatever ails you. As you remove broth, replace it with water...and you can  keep that broth simmering for four to seven days. Yes, that long!


I'll admit, it sounded kind of...well...gross, to be honest. But I know the benefits of good, nourishing bone broth and seeing as how we're smack dab into flu season, the idea of always having some of that magical elixir on hand night and day was what made me decide to give it a whirl.

Grandma was right about chicken soup being able to cure what ails ya. The problem nowadays is that the broth in those convenient cans on the supermarket shelf is NOT your grandmother's, not by a long shot. Even aside from the fact that most broths contain MSG and other chemicals, it's just not made the way grandma did it. And the way grandma did it produces the magical healing qualities of broth.

Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
Broth is Beautiful, by Sally Fallon  Check out the Weston A. Price Foundation's website for lots of great information on nourishing foods. 
My husband recently started "coming down with something" and I forced him to drink broth. He didn't fight much, his mom raised him right! He never did come down with anything then. The kids and I have healthy constitutions and rarely get sick, for which I am so thankful, but since I babysit for a little girl who tends to catch colds at the drop of a hat, it's good preventive medicine for us...and as long as I can get this broth into her, hopefully it will help keep her healthy this winter, too.


This is the end of week two in the perpetual broth experiment. Not only do we drink it straight from a mug, but I put that rich, delicious broth in everything I can. Mashed potatoes? Forget the milk, use chicken broth...OH.MY.WORD. Rice, pasta, beans...anything you'd use water in, you can use this nutrient-rich broth. 

Our favorite is definitely chicken broth, made with the carcass (or frame, if carcass grosses you out too much...) of a locally raised, free-ranging chicken, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper, some garlic cloves in the cavity, baked and noshed on for Sunday lunch. Toss that in the crock pot with some carrots, celery, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, a splash of apple cider vinegar (to help draw out the minerals), set it to low and in no time you have a pot full of the best broth around. Strain the broth in a reusable coffee filter or other such thing, sufficient to catch bits of stuff floating around in the broth. My friend used an ice cube to "catch" the excess fat. After a couple of days, there is much less fat to fool with. The result is a rich, smooth, soothing broth perfect for a cold winter's day or a loved one who's feeling under the weather.  I like to try and have a cup before each meal and before I go to bed. It aids digestion, and the abundance of minerals can have a calming effect...something I always need!

Today, I made chicken tacos and pinto beans for supper and it was a big hit. My daughter ate three tacos and begged me to make it again. My husband would have eaten more, but we had licked the pot clean of the chicken. My son and I love beans more than the rest of the family, so there were beans leftover (fine with me, pop them in the freezer for another meal!). But here's how I got more nourishing bone broth into my family:

Chicken Tacos (no precise measurements, as I was cooking "on the fly" tonight)
Saute about 1/4 c diced onion in olive oil until it begins to soften, add a minced garlic clove and cook briefly, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add about 2 cups of leftover chicken meat, about 1 c bone broth, about 1/3-1/2 c diced tomatoes and juice. I make my own taco seasoning and keep it in a jar, which I just shook out onto the chicken mixture until it looked right, adding more as necessary until it tasted right. I also added some ground marjoram (maybe 1/2 tsp) and a pinch of sugar. Simmer until chicken shreds easily and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Serve with your favorite taco shells and condiments.

Pinto Beans
Last night (at around 8 p.m.), I rinsed and sorted a pound of dry pinto beans, covered with about 4 inches above the beans with warm water and added a generous pinch of baking soda. At around 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, I drained and rinsed the beans and put them in a heavy bottomed stock pot. I covered the beans and then some with the perpetual beef broth I had simmering away, probably about two quarts worth. Brought to a boil, then lowered the heat and simmered until they were soft, about an hour and a half. Seasoned gently with ground cumin and marjoram, generously with sea salt. I think these were the best pinto beans I've made yet. They had the most amazing "pot liquor" that I've been trying to achieve, but before now had not yet managed to pull off. Fabulous.


I don't know if I'll brew perpetual broth all year long, as hot summer days call for cold, refreshing liquids, but I think I'll continue this practice during the cooler months of the year. It makes cooking many things, such as rice, potatoes and pasta...typical fall and winter fare...a breeze, not to mention incredibly flavorful. And with the added immune system boost, and the benefit to skin, hair and nails, well, I don't see how I can NOT keep making this amazing stuff. 

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